By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
The decision to intensify measures, through which the mode of transmission of the Ebola Virus can be stopped and subsequently eradicated from this area by the Port Loko District Ebola Response Committee without further delay, is as a result of a number of reasons. Prominent amongst such was the level of embarrassment the increasing figures of Ebola related cases oozing out of the District has meted on both the Residents and Descendents of this lovable District. But the overriding reason has t do with the fact that the existence of this Virus in the Country has drastically compelled every other development activity to a painful standstill. It has not only frustrated the frantic efforts of President Ernest Bai Koroma in rebranding Sierra Leone, but it has as well stagnated the Economy with horrifying signals of a doom to the future of the Nation.
It will therefore worth a while for you to know that a lot of modalities have since been put in place for the actualisation of the desired goal, following the pressure piled up by President Ernest Bai Koroma himself who has not only been okayed by Paramount Chiefs and other Stakeholders to hold them accountable for any ray of uncontrollable prevalence of the disease in their Chiefdoms, but that it has now become part of his schedule to make regular assessment visits to the District every fortnight. This has subsequently compelled the Port Loko District Taskforce to forge out workable solutions. The Task force has therefore imported a team of consultants from Kenema to restructure the Pillars already set up to fight the spread of the virus. The Team which was headed by one Dr. Monica shared the Kenema experience with emphasis on the need for Team work and for all sorts of interventions to be properly channel led so as to avoid duplication of efforts.
As outlined by the Chairman of the District Taskforce –Mohamed Sheick Kargbo who is also the Port Loko Senior District Officer, Paramount Chiefs, Ward Councillors, Members of Parliament and other key Stakeholders were now required to meet at the beginning and middle of every month for a review of actions that will make them win the fight. He the meetings will be held at the Conference Hall of the Port Loko District Council and there would be penalties for all absentees without very valid excuses.
Hon. Raymond Kabia is the District Coordinator for the Ebola Emergency Response Centre in Port Loko. In his presentation, he spoke on the Bottom/Top approach system which would require the active participation of every Local Authority, ranging from village headmen to Paramount Chiefs. He informed the gathering about some of the modalities so far put in place to enhance the effectiveness of the ‘Count Down to December 31st as was assured to President Ernest Bai Koroma. He spoke of the 273 Contact Tracers and 12 Surveillance Teams that have now been recruited and deployed in the various Chiefdoms. He said a lot of Schools have been converted to Holding Centres, adding that the District can now boast of at least a couple of Treatment Centres and a Laboratory. The District Coordinator however observed that some of the Pillars such as the Social Mobilisation, Surveillance and Contact Tracing Pillars require additional pressure as they do not seem to be effective enough. Emphasis were also laid on Chiefdom Leadership Training and for Civil Societies to intensify monitoring mechanisms
On the issue of Bye Laws, it was realised that most Communities were addicted to the primitive beliefs of washing dead bodies and secret burials. These were deduced to be the key factors responsible for the continual spread of the virus and the upsurge of Ebola related cases in the District. In a bid to nab all these primitive practices, it was resolved that violators of such rules will henceforth be isolated for a period of 6 Months. As for the Village Headmen and Section Chiefs where it is confirmed that such practices were done, they will be not only be automatically relieved of their duties but has to also pay a fine of 500,000 Leones. Any Paramount Chief that fall foul of these Laws will be compelled to pay a levy of one million Leones in addition to whatever other penalty the President might deem fit .For the effective dissemination of these decisions and several other that requires public compliance, the Coordinator for the Ebola Response Centre in Port Loko District said, there will now be a weekly Press Conference at the District Health Management Team Conference on Thursdays and a Radio Talk Show on Fridays.
Following reports from the Command and Control Centre that there was now a marked improvement in terms of conveying sick people to Holding Centres and ensuring s a timely burial for all Ebola related cases, the Paramount Chiefs in their individual contributions commended the initiatives of the District Task Force and registered their determination to fight and win the war in the District. They mentioned some of the strategies they have as well developed in enforcing the implementation of the Ebola Bye Laws in their respective Chiefdoms. They explained how most of them have offered burial sites for Ebola Corpses, identified Schools to be converted as Holding Centres and recruited Young People in their Localities to monitor and enhance compliance.
But the Paramount Chiefs were also able to point out some of the challenges they are faced with in their various Chiefdoms. Prominent amongst them was he issue of insufficient Ambulances and Burial Teams such as well as the timely supply of Food to Quarantined Homes. The Paramount Chiefs further raised the need for them to be properly notified on the situation or eventual outcome of the People that were taken from their communities to either the Holding or Treatment Centres. They observed that it is often incomprehensible and quite difficult for them to explain to relatives of those that were taken away for medication. Below are some Photos obtained at the aforementioned meeting…